Do Men & Women Have Wild or Romantic Fantasies?

Romantic fantasies are popular for both men and women.

Romantic fantasies are popular for both men and women.

Whose fantasies are more romantic? Women’s or men’s?

Who is more likely to fantasize about sex with strangers?

Or multiple partners?

Or simply someone who isn’t your spouse?

To find out I used University of Montréal research — which looked at how common different sorts of fantasies were — in order to do a gender comparison.

1,517 Quebec adults (mean age 30) ranked 55 fantasies and described their favorite in detail. 85% of respondents were straight, 3.6% were gay/lesbian and the rest were none-of-the-above.

Women were more likely than men to say that they never wanted to do some of their fantasies in real life — especially domination and submission, which I will discuss later.

Below are the percentages of women and men who have had each fantasy.

A strong romantic streak

Looks like men and women are both pretty darn romantic with around 90% agreeing that, “I like to feel romantic emotions during a sexual relationship.”

But women seem a bit more inclined, with 92% agreeing, compared with 88% of men.

I like to feel romantic emotions during a sexual relationship: Women: 92, Men: 88

And high numbers of each gender fantasize about sex in romantic locations, at least sometimes:

Romantic location: Women 85, Men 78

Sex with strangers

Sex with strangersBut — with the exception of famous fantasy partners — men are more allured by strangers. Take a look at these numbers:

Having sex with an unknown person: Women: 49, Men: 73

Sexual swinging with a couple I don’t know: Women 27, Men 40

Petting with a stranger in a public place, like a metro: Women 20, Men 48

Having sex with a prostitute or stripper: Women 13, Men 40

But when it came to famous strangers, men and women match up more closely.

Having sex with a star or well-known person: Women 52, Men 62

This reminds me of another study which found women uninterested in real-life casual sex with strangers — except famous, sexy celebs like Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp. In that case they were just as enthusiastic as men were, given the opportunity for sex with Angelina Jolie.

Researchers wondered what made the difference? Was it (presumed) sexual capability, status, warmth, faithfulness, likely gift-giving, worries about danger, STDs or mental illness?

feetTurned out that the only things that mattered were worries about violence and, especially, a belief that the guy would be good in bed. Johnny and Brad seem both safe and sensual. And liaisons with sexy superstars would do wonders for the ego, too.

I’ve written before about how sexual repression dampens the female sex drive. As a result, it takes more to get women interested. Great sex and an ego boost seem to “do it” for most women in both fantasy and in real life scenarios.

Sex with someone you know who isn’t your spouse

Switching from strangers to a friend or acquaintance who isn’t a spouse, women become much more
interested. In fact, they’re more likely to fantasize about a guy they know than a movie star: 66% versus 52% for celebrities.

But men are still way more interested than women:

Having sex with someone that I know who is not my spouse: Women: 66, Men: 83

Multiple partners, anyone?

Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice

Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice

Men are more likely to fantasize about group sex. But I won’t cite specific scenarios here because it gets into questions of sexual flexibility (an individual’s interest in opposite versus same-sex sex) which I’ll discuss in an upcoming post.

Whether swinging, threesomes or orgies, women’s interest generally hovered in the mid-20% to mid-30% range, while men’s enthusiasm ranged from 40% to 80%.

Excluding two questions which are outliers (which I will discuss in an upcoming post) here’s the average interest in various fantasies involving multiple-partners:

Multiple partners of various types, mean: Women 28, Men 57

Evolution or Socialization?

While both women and men can be very romantic in their fantasies, men are more sexually adventurous when it comes to sex with strangers and multiple partners.

Some will say it’s due to evolution: men best reproduce by widely spreading their seed and women best reproduce by being more picky and latching onto one man who can provide resources for her children. But how can men have sex with a lot of different women if each woman is latched onto just one partner — or just a very few?

And in some cultures both women and men have sex with a lot of partners — or at least they did until Christians came along and turned their society upside down.

Also, only behavior — and not fantasy — could create a biological difference. You can’t widely “spread your seed” to create promiscuous males if you only do it in your mind. And when men and women are hooked up to (what they think is) a lie detector, their sex partner numbers are the same.

At the same time, we know that women’s sexuality is much more repressed in our society. And when sexuality is repressed, it takes a lot more to get you interested.

So there is a gender difference. But I wouldn’t pin it on biology.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on February 9, 2015, in men, psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 25 Comments.

  1. “But how can men have sex with a lot of different women if each woman is latched onto just one partner — or just a very few?”

    One of the theories I read basically answers this in terms of infidelity. Not that couples split but that the genetic variation was achieved by infidelity among the couples among various species of hominids. You can also find the same behaviour among many bird specias, relatively stable couples that last for a lifetime but some fun between the blankets with a neighbouring bird to achieve genetic variation.

    The thing is that species that invest heavily in their offspring and ensure their survival trough the means of relatively high intelligence and complex social behaviour over the “safety in numbers approach” tend to form long term relationships for stability. Not to say that humans are naturally monogamous but we aren’t depending on random shags all the time to spread our DNA either but probably somewhere in between; relatively few and long lasting partnerships with some occasional neighbour love. Some researchers believed that humans depended on these stable relationships and would never have evolved to accomodate supreme intelligence.

    • I don’t know that that actually answers the question. If there was infidelity – or non-monogamy – among various species of hominids, then there needed to be equal non-monogamy among both males and females.

      Even among humans as we know them today, the extent to which different social groups are monogamous or not varies from place to place, with more non-monogamy more common in non-modern societies. Which have largely vanished these days.

      Whether a society is more monogamous or non-monogamous, the numbers of men and women need to match.

      Mathematicians can’t figure out how men can be having sex with a lot of women while women our stay monogamous. It can’t be done. And as I mentioned, when you tell people that you are using a lie detector, Male and female numbers come out the same.

      More here:
      Are Men Really More Polygamous?
      https://broadblogs.com/2013/06/03/are-men-really-more-polygamous/

  2. “Turned out that the only things that mattered were worries about violence and, especially, a belief that the guy would be good in bed. Johnny and Brad seem both safe and sensual. And liaisons with sexy superstars would do wonders for the ego, too.”

    That’s the problem and makes me wonder how much of it is women being discouraged to approach men. I remember you have written things about that before, and how society sets it up for men to be the approachers and women sit back passively afraid to look desperate or “slutty”. I find that interesting, because if that;s true then girls would be like that for all guys, but they aren’t. It’s interesting it seems like girls realize they can sit back and be courted, except make a move when a guy “is worth going after”. So that means most men aren’t worth it and obviously not an ego stroke for the woman. Yet, non celebrity women can be the ego stroke for men. I mean look at male celebrities, women throwing themselves at them or even the big man on campus in college or the star player at a university.

    Girls more often throwing themselves at him. So it kind of feels insulting. Why can’t other guys be an ego stroke? Obviously, not worth it or good enough and have to prove ourselves to be worthy even though I feel I’m just as good if not better than the popular guy or whatever. Yeah, yeah I know girls can get sex easily, but you shouldn’t put all men together like they are the same. Girls have egos and so do guys and well I personally don’t feel like some average joe and worthy of an ego stroke too and they find that out after, though I don’t feel like guys should have to prove their worth to be the ego stroke for women, when women don’t have to usually for guys.

    • I think the core causes are slut-shaming and sexual violence.

      We live in a society with a double standard: if a man has sex with a lot of women his status goes up. If a woman has sex with a lot of men her status goes down. In fact, women are shamed. Which leads to repression (when you become practiced at depressing your sex drive, It becomes automatic after a while, And you have a lower sex drive). Which probably explains the fact that men have much more interest in sex with a lot of women, even in their fantasies.

      Remember, this is about fantasy, not what they actually wanted to do in real life — women in this study often made a distinction between their fantasies (stated here) and what they wanted to do in real life. They were less likely than men to want to do these things in real life– Especially when it came to fantasies of domination and submission, which I will discuss later.

      Living in a society with sexual violence does two things: 1) it makes women fear approaching men, and fear accepting offers from men they don’t know. And 2) it associates sexuality with something negative, Which can also repress the sex drive.

      • “Living in a society with sexual violence does two things: 1) it makes women fear approaching men, and fear accepting offers from men they don’t know. And 2) it associates sexuality with something negative, Which can also repress the sex drive.”

        If that’s the case, then why do women throw themselves at star athletes on campus who they don’t know anymore than the regular male student? Why do women throw themselves at george clooney and he has not just his pick of women, but women throwing themselves at him. Yes, women find him good looking and sexy, but there are plenty of non celebrity guys who are good looking and sexy to women, which women don’t throw themselves at them.

        Most likely because clooney is the ego stroke and has the money and status worthy to take that chance compared to joe schmoe.. It’s weird though, because yeah women see clooeny in movies, but they don’t personally know him. So it’s a bit gullible to think he’s “safer” to throw themselves at or another high status guy to throw themselves at compared to a regular guy. These male celebrities or musicians they don’t know personally anymore and are just as much strangers as a guy on the street, yet women will throw themselves at such guys.

      • Although men on sports teams — more macho teens like football, basketball and baseball (Not golf so much) — are more likely to rape then other men, Women often don’t realize this. In fact, they may seem safe because they have a celebrity status and yet they haven’t been convicted of rape. They don’t realize that part of the reason they haven’t been accused or convicted of rape is because schools do a lot to make sexual assault hush-hush. So celebrities of any sort seem both safer and a bigger ego boost. I suspect it’s mostly the ego boost that is involved in sex with sports stars. With sexy celebrities it’s probably an ego boost plus how sexy the guy is, And have good in bed that she thinks he will be.

  3. I’m glad you brought up love and intimacy and sex in the equation between men and women. I know you have before, but I find it interesting how society and conditioning also effects and can hurt men and women with intimacy and sex, as far as opening up with each other, hang ups, because of the conditioning effect society has women and men.

    The effect works in different ways, but still hurts both men and women and how much happier and nicer things would be if women could feel sexy and not so self conscious and men not so restricted and constantly guard their manhood or in fear of losing it or being judged. The question is, how do we get there? Because women internalize it just as much as men, so whether it be women’s judgments of other women or themselves and men toward women and other men. But women judging men’s masculinity and that last thing a man ever wants to do is seem less manly to other women, that’s a huge blow.

    • Internalization works best when people aren’t aware that they have internalized something. If it is unconscious, Then you are on autopilot.

      When you have a conversation about things, And bring things out into the open, it becomes possible to criticize the notions and change behavior.

      So I’m hoping to help people have a conversation and bring things out into the open for that critique and change of behavior.

  4. Good timing on you post and quite the coicidence as I wrote on your “how to pleasure a woman” post last night and then you had this blog. So they are kind of are related as far as what I was discussing on that other blog post with conditioning and how it effects or can effect and hurt both men and women with their communication to each other out of fear of being judged.

  5. So potent how society influences our sexual drives and preferences, really. Makes me want to strip all of that away for myself to have a truly authentic urge. I personally have my fantasies- but at the end of the day, what I really want is to be pierced by true deep intimacy with my significant other in the bedroom and out. To be entered and receive that person so fully that I’m cracked wide open.

  6. “…a belief that the guy would be good in bed”

    I guess women have a built in radar to determine this? Or is it more like they share the men whom they have experienced great sex with?

    I cannot see how you can always judge a book by its cover AND be right in judging it. Oh well, such is life.

    As I have said many many times here, some men are just more privileged with women when it comes to getting sex. The more sex a man has with women, the more women who want to have sex with said man. I just do not know why so many women deny this and are so disingenuous about the whole thing.

    • I’m just reporting what women said in the research. And I can only guess that they are judging a book by the cover. Or maybe because they have acted sexy in the movies, They seem like they would be sexy — like that as proof?

      I’m not sure what you mean by disingenuous.

  7. “At the same time, we know that women’s sexuality is much more repressed in our society. And when sexuality is repressed, it takes a lot more to get you interested.”

    You know I really scoff at this conclusion.

    I don’t think it takes a lot more to get a woman interested in sex. It simply takes the right man! Period. A man whom she perceives in her mind to be sexually exciting……that is not more in my books. Sadly for most men, the number of men who fall into this category is a minority.

    I would argue that this is the primary cause of sexless marriages. Women are opting to marry men whom they find sexually unattractive. But, these men are “great dads, good providers, etc” Just makes a complete mockery of human relations and marriage.

    I really wish we could have an honest and open debate over sexuality in this country. Instead we seem far more content with obstruction and denial.

    • Most guys will have sex with anyone, So it doesn’t take a lot to get them going. Women need a lot more. To get them going the guy needs to seem like he will be good in bed or raise her status.

      It also helps to explain why women lose interest in sex with their monogamous partners so much quicker than men do. Women need more to get them going.

      But I don’t feel like arguing with you about this if you want to keep with your opinion.

  8. A couple of random thoughts here…
    1) I don’t know about “most guys”, but the thought of multiple sex partners always horrified me. Not because of a particularly Puritan upbringing — I didn’t really get religion until I was an adult living on my own — but because I always considered sex to be uniquely intimate… I would no more share sex with multiple friends, much less random strangers or casual acquaintances, than I would share my toothbrush. Hmmm, that analogy might be stronger if you knew that I’m a bit of a germophobe; I’m uncomfortable eating with the same utensil that my wife has used, and I would *never* actually put her toothbrush in my mouth. Eeewwwww.

    2) I have always believed fantasies which involve being forced into some act — sex (rape), bondage, humiliation, whatever — are popular because when we imagine that we have been forced against our will into something, we are absolved of all responsibility for it. Of course I would never dream of doing something so vulgar as to have an orgy with multiple young women, but since those Swedish cheerleaders ganged up on me and held me down while each had her awful way with me, what was I to do? I see this all the time in crossdresser discussion groups: “I want to be forced to dress like a little girl and serve as a maid.” Really? I don’t think “want” and “forced” work together, but obviously what the author means is “this is an activity I want to participate in, but I don’t want you to think I’m weird for wanting it so it’s more acceptable if I have no choice in the matter.”

    • Yeah, I think you are right. I remember having those fantasies when I was younger, And it was definitely for the exact reason you describe. I was also reading a book that spends a chapter on female fantasies of that sort — which proposed the same theory. It makes sense to me.

  9. Very interesting statistics, it’s intriguing to hear how men’s thoughts compare to women’s. An eye-opening read, thanks for sharing 🙂

      • Yes. Romantic fantasies are good to have when you really would like to be with the one you want. It feels good to when you notice a woman that you have never seen. Romance can happen if you want to spend much time with the person so you can build something. Wild fantasies are good too because they stimulate your mind, and it is usually something that you really wish can happen. I like reading all of the information that is posted and it helped me learn something. I have romantic fantasies about a woman that I feel is so wonderful.

  10. I love this post and the comments are so interesting. You make such good comebacks with your replies. Thank you!

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